Grace and the Ten Commandments

Published 10:12 pm Friday, August 31, 2012

By Chris Surber

Are Christians under the Ten Commandments?

Yes and no. Let me explain. Christians are no longer under the law. We are under grace. But there is a catch. Christians are not only bound to the keeping of the Ten Commandments, we are bound to keeping their highest aim.

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Where the law showed us our inability to relate to God perfectly, grace empowers us to relate rightly on the level of motive, of love.

There basically are two ways that most people look at the Ten Commandments. On the one hand, we see our keeping them as the end of our obligation to God. Even non-Christians count themselves worthy of heaven in the life to come and God’s favor in this life for the simple fact that they have not murdered anyone or stolen anything lately.

On the other hand, we Christians completely ignore the commandments, because we know that we are under grace. Many stone-hearted Christians and professed but incredulous men often say, “If I’m under grace, then what difference does it make how I live? I prayed a prayer of forgiveness once. I’m good.”

Christian, keeping the letter of the law is not enough. It never really was. The Ten Commandments demonstrate the justice of God and give a simple pattern for abundant godly living but always pointed to something greater. They tell us how to relate to one another on the basis of rightly relating to God.

Non-Christian, keeping the law is not enough. It never really was. They can’t be kept perfectly, because God requires not just acts of obedience and avoidance of waywardness. He cares about the intent and content of our hearts.

Christians are not under the Ten Commandments. We are bound by grace to something far higher.

Not only should we not covet. We should also look out for the welfare of others and share in the joy of others. Not only should we not murder. We should preserve life. We should not even hold anger or hatred in our hearts. (Matthew 5:22)

Thankfully, there is another catch. Since we are under grace, we are free from keeping the Ten Commandments as a way to please God under compulsion of guilt.

God doesn’t desire our obedience in order to secure His favor. He places His love inside of us as we place our faith in Him. As a result, our “want-to” gets rearranged and we desire to keep the commandments and go well beyond that.

The Ten Commandments are a mirror that show us how woefully inadequate our heart’s desires are. Grace is a surgeon’s tool in the hand of God that dissects our heart and changes its desires.

“I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit within you. I will remove the heart of stone from your body and give you a heart of flesh.” (Ezekiel 36:26 NET)